Repeatable: Yes! Visits: 2+
Forget what you’ve heard about Spur, because most of it isn’t accurate. Here are some of the myths circulating out there:
1) That it does molecular gastronomy, like Ferran Adria’s El Bulli, so the food is pretty whacked out and weird.
2) That because it does molecular gastronomy, it will only appeal to food snobs, culinary daredevils, or Belltown bar-hoppers too drunk to notice what they’re eating.
3) That real men won’t eat there, because the food is pretty whacked out and weird.
First, let’s dispense with the myth that it specializes in molecular gastronomy. Would you call a restaurant serving ice cream on its dessert menu an ice cream shop? Or insist that a restaurant with a foie gras appetizer must be classically French?
So it stands to reason that a restaurant offering a bit of parmesan foam here and a flavor bubble there isn’t necessarily a temple of molecular gastronomy. Said restaurant, however, just might be steered by two chefs–Brian McCracken and Dana Tough–who are keeping abreast of the latest cutting-edge techniques and deploying them with intelligence, daring, and wit.
It’s not the HOW that matters at Spur, but the WHAT–the end result, the food, which is some of the most deliciously original, creative, and likable fare I’ve had the pleasure of eating in Seattle in recent memory.
Consider the humble deep-fried hominy, for example, Spur’s complimentary amuse bouche (or bar snack). Hominy is dried corn kernels, soaked in lye with the hulls removed. Hardly anyone eats it anymore. Except at Spur, where it has been deep-fried into an addictive golden crackle. “The most amazing corn-nuts ever,” exclaimed by my husband. I single out those corn nuts because they embody Spur’s refreshing approach to cooking. Take a common ingredient, like corn, and make us appreciate it anew.
That’s what the widely (and justly) lauded tagliatelle ($14) with sous vide duck egg, oyster mushroom, and Parmesan foam does: Startle us into appreciating its separate components of noodle, egg, and cheese. At heart, it’s comfort food–a linguini carbonara really–but comfort food made by someone who can chew gum and talk at the same time.
Want a burger? Then try the pork belly sliders with diced apple and mustard bourbon sauce ($12). Really crave beef? Take a chance on the Ostrich burger ($15). It has the full robust meaty flavor similar to cow with none of the cholesterol (there’s a skirt steak for those who absolutely must, for $24). Of course you can get fries here–Spur is a bar, after all. The hand-made jojos, drizzled with smoked olive oil, will make you wonder why everyone else doesn’t deep-fry fingerling potatoes. (Because they can’t. Spur really knows how to fry, in addition to everything else.)
My only gripe is a paltry one: that the menu is too brief at a dozen items. We sampled half the options in one visit, and everything was fantastic, including the fried potato dumplings ($9; imagine a tater tot with a creamy knish-like interior) and Sockeye salmon crostini ($9; delicious but the least original item on the menu). Thrilled by the unexpected success of our meal, we tried three desserts too: Sarsaparilla sorbet with vanilla bubbles ($6, refreshing and light); “Corn Flakes” ($6, pastry flakes with straight milk ice cream); and the caramel apple mille feuille ($11; with pistachios and a layer of foie gras in the pastry; just forget it’s foie gras and you’ll swear it’s a nut butter). We finished every bite of our 8-course meal.
Spur is perfectly named: It’s an agent of change, a kick in the pants to the local dining scene, where gastronomical innovation sometimes means changing the dining room setup. But forget those cumbersome platters, gritty communal tables, secret “underground” restaurants, and silly paintbrushes in sauces–they’re trying way too hard. Instead, look for a kitchen that’s cooking with heart, gut, and head in the right place—and having fun in the process. The guys are Spur are doing just that–and doing a damn fine job of it.